Family reunited with dog

Danette Dooley
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Pet found after caller claimed to have killed it

Laura Murphy and her five-year-old daughter Katelyn Murphy with Barney. The dog was reunited with the family on Sunday after being on the missing list for 18 days. — Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

After almost three weeks on the lam, battling sleet, rain, freezing temperatures and at least one winter storm, a black and white Shih Tzu named Barney is back home with his family in the Cowan Heights area of St. John’s.

Laura Murphy and her five-year-old daughter Katelyn Murphy were on vacation out of province when their pet went missing on March 14.

Murphy’s brother had visited the home to let the dog out. The gate into the yard had mistakenly been left open. Barney took off, Murphy’s brother in quick pursuit.

“There was no way he was going to get him. He just won’t come to any men,” she said.

Murphy and Katelyn came home several days after Barney went missing. Even while in Nova Scotia, Murphy had enlisted the help of family and friends to put up posters and make calls.

Almost 800 people joined a Facebook group set up to spread the word about the lost dog.

Murphy’s sons, nine-year-old Alexander Moyles and eight-year-old Shawn Moyles, also missed Barney and helped in the search.

The family posted a $350 reward for his return, Murphy said. There was $250 donated by a local businessman who called a local talk show with the donation after hearing about the missing dog.

Family, friends and strangers searched in the Blackmarsh Road area for weeks. It’s where Barney had been sighted but no one could catch him.

Murphy and her husband, Paul Murphy, and friend took turns staying out all night in the woods.

They set up traps and even brought their BBQ in the woods hoping the smell of cooked food would entice him closer. Nothing worked, Murphy said.

“I knew he was out there in the cold. And I knew no one had taken him in because he’s just so nervous. He’d never go with anyone.”

Murphy says while losing the family pet was devastating the hardest part of the ordeal was when she received a phone call from someone saying they’d found her dog.

The call came after they’d been searching for Barney for about a week, she said.

“He told me that he had my little dog and I could come get him. He said he was in Shea Heights. When I asked him where in Shea Heights he laughed and said that he’d just beaten him to death. It was horrible,” Murphy said.

She called the police in a panic. But the more she thought about the call, the more she believed it was a cruel joke.

Murphy and Paul adopted Barney from the SPCA two years ago. He’d been abused before coming into their home, she said, and has always been scared of men.

“I knew there was no way he was going to go with a man. … So, after I got that call, we just kept on looking.”

Barney may not like men but it was local dog trainer Ken Reid who captured the pooch on Sunday after searchers put in a worrisome night Saturday fearing the dog, who was only 12 pounds when he went missing, would not survive the snowstorm.

However, according to Reid, the snow helped in Barney’s capture.

Reid spotted dog tracks in the snow near a wooded area off Redmond’s Road. He followed the tracks and soon caught a glimpse of the dog.

“I kept my distance. … I managed to get up closer to him then he made a dart in the woods but he got bogged down in the snow a little,” Reid said.

Reid made a quick move and got the dog.

“He just sat there shaking in my arms. But then I held him and he licked me. I said to him, ‘You’re coming around, buddy.’”

Murphy says she’s grateful to Reid and everyone else who supported her family during the past 2 1/2 weeks.

“It was just wonderful getting him in my arms again. He got us all rotten and he stank up our truck. But we were just so happy to have him home.”

Barney lost two pounds during his time on the run. However, he received a clean bill of health from his vet on Sunday.

Sitting next to her mother on the chesterfield, Katelyn is soon ready to add her thoughts to the story.

“I did really miss Barney when he was gone. He doesn’t hurt anyone. I helped mommy look for him and I yelled out the loudest.”

Murphy has some advice for other pet owners who may lose their animal. Never give up hope, she said.

“He’s our pampered pooch. He’s like another child to me and I just had to find him. If it was a year down the road, I’d still be looking for him.”

Geographic location: Cowan Heights, Nova Scotia, Shea Heights Blackmarsh Road Redmond

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Recent comments

  • Claudette
    April 04, 2012 - 12:54

    I am so glad to see that Barney got home safe and sound. I have 2 little Lhasa Apsos and if anything like that happened to my guys I would be heart broken. As for the j**k who made that cruel phone call to that family - SHAME on you and I truly hope the police are looking into that call and that they find out who you are. You deserve some form of punishment. Welcome home Barney. You have a wonderful family now that loves you, please do not run away again :)

  • Charles
    April 03, 2012 - 12:07

    Awesome story!

    • deborah Halliday
      April 03, 2012 - 16:52

      I am so Happy they have their beautiful dog back!! Our 8 yr old shih tzu passed away several weeks ago and our family has been devastated.They add so much to our lives!!! What a wonderful ending to the story.

  • marie
    April 03, 2012 - 09:46

    im so glad to hear that barney is found and that all is well with him i know what its like to lose a dog i now have 5 shih tzus and love them like they are my kids so happy for the family and also a big thank you to ken reid for finding him

  • Kyla
    April 03, 2012 - 09:20

    Bless your little heart Barney.

  • Pam
    April 03, 2012 - 09:12

    I am so so happy to hear of Barney's return to his family. I was so upset how someone could be so cruel as to play a sick joke on a faimily worried about their family pet. I have a young daughter and a dog as well, and I am filled with tears of joy on the safe return of your treasured dog.

  • Ros
    April 03, 2012 - 08:45

    so glad you have your dog home we lost ours last Dec was gone 21 days,so i know what its like our dog was seen all over town but no one could catch him. he found his way home with the help fr mount pearls dog pond saw him but could not catch him he was so afraid he wont come to us but after seen us he came the next day from kents in mount pearl to Cowan Heights lost 16lbs and hes a old dog 14 still going strong

  • Kelly
    April 03, 2012 - 08:36

    This brought tears to my eyes. Welcome back Barney. The family and the wonderful volunteers never gave up. Thank goodness for people like those volunteers and, of course, Ken Reid.

  • Mike
    April 03, 2012 - 08:17

    That is one tough pooch...beware the Shih Tzu!

  • wayne
    April 03, 2012 - 07:51

    a good news story for a change...It's great thatv the little dog survived and is home again.

  • Kent
    April 03, 2012 - 06:31

    Good to hear he's back home.

    • Edna Knight
      April 03, 2012 - 09:31

      What a wonderful moment when I heard the news he was found. I was out search ing all the time when I knew he was on the missing list. I was even hiking up Redmond Rd. on Saturday in the storm. And yes, Shih Tzus are tough little dogs (I know, I own 4). Never ever give up on your pet if he is missing. God bless you Barney.